The Incarnation in Hebrews, Part Four

NickImageRead Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Both Offerer and Offering

One of the primary concerns of the writer to the Hebrews is the priesthood of Christ. The duty of a priest is to represent humans before God. In order to fulfill this responsibility effectively, the priest must be human himself. The priest must also be sinless. The only priest who has ever met these requirements is Jesus Christ, and He has met them perfectly.

Remarkably, Christ was not only the priest who offered sacrifice, but also the sacrifice that was offered. Not surprisingly, once the author of Hebrews has discussed the priesthood of Christ, he turns his attention to Christ as the offering for sins. In Hebrews 10, he examines Christ as the sin offering, drawing out the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice by contrasting the person and ministry of Christ with the Levitical sacrifices of the Old Testament.

He begins by observing that the Old Testament offerings were shadows and not ultimate realities, and then notes that those sacrifices could never make the offerers perfect (1). In other words, the Old Testament sacrifices could never actually remove the guilt of sin. If they could have, the need to offer additional sacrifices would have been eliminated (2). If one’s sins have been completely forgiven, then one does not need any further sacrifice. Yet the Levitical sacrifices on the Day of Atonement were made every year, year after year (3). The necessity of repeating the sacrifices should have proved that the blood of animal sacrifices could not remove sins (4).

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The Incarnation in Hebrews, Part Three

NickImageRead Part 1 and Part 2.

The Order of Melchizedek

The writer to the Hebrews was distressed by the spiritual immaturity of his readers. He wanted to discuss theology with them—specifically, the calling of Christ as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:10-14). He made it clear that the Hebrews had been saved long enough (“when for the time”) that they ought to have mastered this topic (“ye ought to be teachers”). Instead, he had to rehearse certain elementary teachings of biblical doctrine (“the first principles of the oracles of God”).

The writer’s disappointment with the immaturity of the Hebrew believers was what fueled the warning passage of chapter 6. Not until chapter 7 did he return to the theme that Christ is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. When he finally got back to it, however, he penned one of the most difficult and detailed arguments in all of Scripture. This argument is highly instructive concerning the nature of Christ’s high priesthood.

Nothing in Hebrews 7 is really new. Everything in the chapter is inferred from three sources. The first source is the Genesis account of Melchizedek, a three-verse snippet of narrative (Gen. 14:18-20). The second source is a single verse (Ps. 110:4) from a Messianic psalm. The third source is a general knowledge of the history and culture of Israel. From these short sources, the writer constructs an elaborate discussion of the high priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchizedek. So detailed is the discussion that only the outlines can be explored here.

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The Superiority of Jesus Christ, Part 2

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Warren Vanhetloo’s newsletter “Cogitation.”
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Both as to person and to task, Jesus of Nazareth was superior to all the Old Testament prophets, to all angels, to the patriarch Abraham, to the law-giver Moses, and to Aaron and other high priests who served in the tabernacle and in Jerusalem. Jesus was by God’s appointment the supreme Apostle and High Priest of our profession (Heb 3:1). He was faithful and successful in His appointment. As the Son of God, born of a virgin and without sin, He was qualified to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He did not, as human priests do, need to offer payment for His Own sins. He performed His substitutionary work in the true heavenly temple, not in one on this earth.

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The Superiority of Jesus Christ

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Warren Vanhetloo’s newsletter “Cogitation.”
Pew and BibleThe author of the Epistle to the Hebrews declared the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ to other agents God has used in revealing Himself and His will to His people. Jesus was superior to Old Testament prophets who spoke for God, for He was the Son of God (1:1-3). Angels too have been divine messengers, but they ministered to and worshiped the Son (1:4-2:13). Jesus was born a descendant of Abraham (2:14-18) and was superior to him andalso to Aaron and Moses (3:1-4:13). He was superior both as to His person and also pertaining to His appointed tasks, both as a revealing Sent One (Apostle) and as the great High Priest who has functioned on our behalf in the true heaven above (3:1; 4:13).

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The Priority of the Gospel

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Warren Vanhetloo’s newsletter “Cogitation.”
CrossThe human author of God’s epistle to the Hebrews first summarized the superiority of the Son to the prophets of the nation (1:1-3) and then stressed how strongly God had announced ahead of time the superiority of His Messiah to the angels (1:4-14). In the second chapter, he proclaimed the importance of the word revelation God had given (2:1-4) and the importance of God’s exalted plan for humanity (2:5-9). Since this Messiah is superior to human prophets and to angelic messengers, His message deserves supreme consideration by all who hear it.

Therefore, it is crucial that we give careful attention to this gospel so we do not gradually lose sight of the importance of it and drift away from it (2:1). Earlier revelation from God was honored in the nation such that transgressions were punished (2:2). Old Testament revelations were mediated by angels. The authority of their message was recognized by courts of the land. Humans decided the severity and justness of penalties. Submission to the gospel message clearly is of far greater importance.

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